Red Cross offering virtual safety courses for all ages

Learn how to prepare for disasters like tornadoes and flooding at no cost

By Eric Alves, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

June 25, 2020- As Northern Ohio, like the rest of the world, is adjusting to the new reality caused by the coronavirus, it is often hard to find ways to entertain ourselves, despite businesses slowly reopening.

The other reality is, as more Ohioans stay home in record numbers, including the fact we are now in the volatile summer storm season, there is a higher risk for disasters to occur.

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Safety is the number one priority for the American Red Cross, may it be ensuring the safety of residents from disasters, such as home fires, through safety courses, or preventing the spread of the coronavirus. This is why the Red Cross of Northern Ohio is offering virtual disaster safety preparation courses.

Each course is free to the public, lasts approximately an hour and covers a range of various disaster preparation topics.

Here is a list of the upcoming Be Red Cross Ready virtual sessions that is sure to have a topic of interest for everyone:

General Preparedness & Fire Safety

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This presentation will focus on actions that you can take now, before an emergency happens, to make you and your family safer. The fire safety presentation discusses how you can avoid home fires, actions you can take if a fire occurs in your home, actions you can take to escape a fire and ways to make you and your family safe.

Tuesday, June 30- 3 PM

Tuesday, July 7- 3 PM

Wednesday, July 15- 3 PM

Thursday, July 23- 3 PM

Tuesday, July 28- 3 PM

Virtual Pillowcase Project

 

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The Pillowcase Project is a preparedness education program for grades 3-5 that teaches students about personal and family preparedness, safety skills, local hazards and basic coping skills. Red Cross volunteers lead students through a “Learn, Practice, Share” framework to engage them in disaster preparedness and survival skills.

Wednesday, July 1- 3 PM

Wednesday, July 8- 3 PM

Thursday, July 16- 3 PM

Tuesday, July 21- 3 PM

Wednesday, July 29- 3 PM

General Preparedness & Tornado Safety

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It is summertime in Northern Ohio, which means it is tornado season. This presentation will cover the concept of “Build a Kit, Make a Plan and Be Informed.” It will also share tornado safety information and steps you can do to protect you and your family.

Thursday, July 2- 3 PM

Thursday, July 9- 3 PM

Wednesday, July 22- 3 PM

General Preparedness & Thunderstorm Safety

This presentation will share suggestions on how you and your family can be better prepared for all types of emergencies. It will also cover thunderstorm safety preparedness information, share information on how thunderstorms develop and steps you can take to be prepared.

Tuesday, July 14- 3 PM

General Preparedness & Flood Safety 

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This presentation will share suggestions on how you and your family can be better prepared for all types of emergencies. It will also cover flood safety preparedness information, share information on how flooding can happen and steps you can take to avoid being trapped in your home if flooding occurs.

Thursday, July 30- 3 PM

To join each presentation, click on the date of the presentation you are interested in to register and use the password Prepare20.

For more disaster safety tips, visit redcross.org. Be sure to also download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.

 

 

It is time to prepare for spring and summer storm season

By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northern Ohio

May 1, 2020- Everyone around the world is understandably focusing on COVID-19 and this new normal we are living. But as we approach the spring and summer storm season, it is important to prepare because emergencies don’t take breaks.

Spring and summer in Northern Ohio ushers in tornado and flood season. This year’s tornado and flood season has already begun to make an impact in the United States.

In what some are calling the deadliest tornado season since 2011, the American Red Cross is responding across multiple states impacted by ongoing severe weather. Hundreds of tornadoes have been reported across the eastern half of the country in April, most of these occurring in the southeast.

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While taking increased precautions during the current public health emergency, the Red Cross is providing shelter, warm meals and emotional support for those with immediate needs after a disaster. Red Cross disaster workers, many of whom are working virtually, are also connecting affected residents to additional community resources to support their recovery.

More than 1,100 people displaced by storms and tornadoes across the Southeast spent Sunday night in 393 hotels across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. This shelter is made available with the help of our valuable hotel partners and community stakeholders. Overall, more than 13,900 hotel stays have been provided to residents displaced by tornadoes and storms since nationwide COVID-19 social distancing measures were put into place.

The Red Cross has provided more than 45,600 meals and snacks. We are working closely with our hotel partners to ensure distribution follows social distancing and safe food handling protocols.

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To ensure everyone across Northern Ohio is prepared, here are some tornado safety tips:

  • Identify a safe place in your home where everyone, including pets, can gather during a tornado: a basement, storm cellar or an interior room on the lowest floor away from windows.
  • Make sure you have access to NOAA radio broadcasts, through streaming a NOAA radio station, or downloading a NOAA radio app in the Apple Store or Google Play.
  • If you are in a high-rise building during a tornado, pick a hallway in the center of the building.
  • In a manufactured home, choose a safe place in a nearby sturdy building.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a storm.

While not common in Northern Ohio, spring and summer also means hurricanes. May 3 to May 9 is considered National Hurricane Awareness Week. Forecasters are warning of an active hurricane season in 2020. Experts are predicting that we could see 20 named storms this year in the Atlantic, making 2020 the second most active season in terms of number of storms.

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If you or a loved one are at a location when a hurricane hits, here are some hurricane preparedness tips:

  • First, talk with your family about what to do if a hurricane strikes. Discussing hurricanes ahead of time helps reduce fear, particularly for young children.
  • Protect windows with permanent storm shutters or one-half-inch marine plywood.
  • Identify a place to store lawn furniture, toys, gardening tools and trash cans.
  • Be prepared to evacuate quickly.
  • Make sure you have plenty of clean water for drinking.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks with water for flushing the toilet, washing the floor or cleaning clothing.
  • Turn off propane tanks and unplug small appliances.
  • When the hurricane makes landfall, be sure to stay indoors.
  • Avoid contact with floodwater.

For more tips, download the hurricane safety checklist.

Texas Tornadoes 2020

Regardless if you are preparing for a hurricane, a tornado or any other storm, be sure to download the Red Cross Emergency App for instant access to weather alerts for the area and where loved ones live. The Emergency App and all Red Cross apps are available for free download in app stores or at redcross.org/apps.

Red Cross urges Northeast Ohio residents to practice and prepare for future disasters

COVID-19 social distancing measures provide opportunity to be prepared

 By Eric Alves, Regional Communications Specialist, American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio

March 23, 2020 — As individuals and families remain at home at a higher rate due to the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures, the American Red Cross is urging all Northeast Ohio residents to take the time to prepare for future disasters.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Here are some safety tips to practice and follow while everyone is home together:

Home Fire Safety

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  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test smoke alarms every month. If they’re not working, change the batteries.
  • Talk with all family members about a home fire escape plan, make sure everyone has two exits out of every room.
  • Practice your fire escape plan and have everyone meet at the designated safe location. Make sure everyone escapes in two minutes or less.

Flood Safety

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Tornado Safety

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  • Talk about tornadoes with your family so that everyone knows where to go if a tornado warning is issued.
  • Ensure you have access to NOAA Radio broadcasts.
  • Prepare a pet emergency kit for your furry friends.

Thunderstorm Safety

  • Discuss thunderstorm safety and lightning safety with all members of your household.
  • Pick a safe place in your home for household members to gather during a thunderstorm. This should be away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
  • Make a list of items to bring inside in the event of a severe thunderstorm.

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

Visit redcross.org to learn more emergency preparedness tips to ensure you and your family are Red Cross ready. Be sure to download the free Red Cross mobile apps, available in the Apple App Store or Google Play, for tools and preparedness information you need every day.

Connect with neighbors to plan ahead

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross Volunteer

September 16, 2019- Last year, our friends watched their barn burn to the ground in the middle of the night. They were unable to save their animals, the horror of which they are unable to forget. This summer, another friend went to get gas for his mower and came home to find it floating down the road, along with his shed. Eric Alves, regional communications specialist for the American Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, reports that this past July, flash flooding in Apple Creek, Ohio, caused residents to have to shelter overnight at Grace Church. That same weekend, a road washed out in Kinsman. Residents who were trapped in their homes had to be rescued by boat.

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We have no idea when disaster will strike or how quickly we’ll need to respond. We’ve all been alerted numerous times to have a plan in case our families need to escape and to have supplies ready to grab on the way out the door. Many residents in Northeast Ohio live near the Perry nuclear power plant, where evacuation plans are printed in the local telephone books. People often say they’ll worry about it when the time comes. But in the panicked moment when you have to act, will you be thinking clearly enough to protect your family and get them to safety?

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Part of preparing your family for an emergency includes preparing as a community. Who in your neighborhood would need help in an emergency? An older couple, perhaps? A single mom or a neighbor confined to a wheelchair? What about your animals – is there a safe place in the area to take them if you have to leave your home? What resources are nearby in case there is no power, no water and/or limited lines of communication?

Sound the Alarm Event in Capitol Heights, Maryland 2019

In the farming community where I live, families talk together about how they might support each other during a disaster. When the rising waters of Lake Erie threatened to shut down the public water system, we knew which farms had natural springs that could be relied on for ourselves and our animals. If an ice storm leaves us in a blackout, Anna and Joe who heat their house with electricity know they can take their small children to Jill and Trevor’s farm a mile down the road and stay warm near the wood stove. We know to call Jim and Matt when a tree comes down, for example. Or that Patti will drop everything to watch our children if we’re rushed to the hospital.

We all need help sometimes, and we are each able to help, even in small ways. Talk to your neighbors about how you might support each other in times of need. Community building can be fun. Have a potluck or a block party and get to know each other!

The Pillowcase Project, New York 2013

The Red Cross website provides a wealth of information to help you prepare for emergencies: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies.html. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross Volunteer

Meet me at the corner! Plan for your family’s safety

By Beth Bracale, American Red Cross volunteer

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Beth Bracale

If I close my eyes, I can still see the flames shooting out from the windows of the house across the street. I can hear the agonized screams that drew us to our own windows that night to see what had happened. I was five years old, and that was my first experience of sheer terror – both someone else’s and my own.

Believe it or not, no one got hurt that night. Both of the senior sisters who shared the home had escaped the fire, one out the front door, one out the back. Their screams were the agony of each believing the other to still be trapped in the inferno. When neighbors reunited them, they fell sobbing into each other’s arms.

No one is ever fully prepared for disaster, but families can plan together to minimize the suffering. What if the sisters had had a plan? Would that night have gone differently had they designated a meeting spot in case they got separated in an emergency?

As foster parents, it’s required that we have a clear escape plan in case of disaster, one that everyone in the family can understand and remember. Even young children can learn what to do. All the students in the school where I taught, ages four through 14, practiced how to exit the school if there was a fire, how to exit a bus in an emergency, and what to do if a tornado was headed toward our neighborhood.

So I wasn’t prepared for the day my class of four-year-olds sat on the story carpet, listening to my assistant talk about emergencies. They raised their hands eagerly to share what they knew about fire drills. Stay in line. Walk, don’t run. Remain silent. Wait in our class’ spot on the corner until we got the “all clear” to return to our room. They had it all right.

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Photo credit: Eilene Guy, American Red Cross volunteer

“But what if an emergency happened at home?” my assistant asked.

“If a bad man comes in the house, you hide in the closet,” one child announced. Others nodded in agreement.

“What if a tornado is coming?” she asked.

“You run outside,” another child responded. More nods. I made a mental note to teach about tornado safety in the near future.

“What if you smelled smoke in your house or saw that something was on fire?” she quizzed.

“You call 911,” a student said confidently. “Yes, but what do you do before that?” she asked.

“Hide in the closet,” he said. The other children agreed.

Hide in the closet. Images of that house fire from years ago leaped into my head. And I imagined children inside, hiding in the closet.

We did a lot of learning and practicing that day. We sent the students home with information for their parents to use in creating family safety plans.

You can find information about keeping children safe on the American Red Cross website at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/fire/fire-safety-for-kids.html.

Don’t put it off. Create your own plan today!

Red Cross partners with Dominion Energy to distribute first aid kits

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

April 3, 2019- Dominion Energy and the American Red Cross want to make sure you are prepared. This Saturday, April 6, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at locations across northern Ohio they will supply you with the right tools. In return for five to 10 minutes of your time, you’ll be rewarded with a free, Red Cross First Aid Kit (valued at $35).

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Since 2013, “partners in safety” Dominion Energy and the Red Cross have held an annual Disaster Preparedness Day. Each person or family that agrees to take a short, six-question survey, will receive a quality, first aid kit along with literature stressing home safety.  Volunteers from each organization will be available to help people complete their surveys and hand out special co-branded bags with both organizations’ logos.

“Safety is one of Dominion’s core values,” explains Neil Durbin, senior communication specialist at Dominion. “That’s why this partnership is such a great fit for both organizations—we’re both centered on promoting safety. We also happen to each have offices in matching cities across the region.”

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Preparing for Preparedness Day turns out to be quite the project itself. John Gareis, regional manager for preparedness at the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, said that the preparation starts way before the event and involves staff and volunteers from both organizations. Sites have to be reserved, insurance certificates need to be provided, negotiations have to occur with vendors, five pallets worth of specially branded kits need to be received and then combined with handouts, and cases of assembled kits need to be transported to local chapters. Volunteers then need to be recruited, trained and equipped for the day of the event. When volunteers walk in that Saturday morning, everything will be there ready for them.

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This Saturday, more than 3,000 first aid kits will be presented to families at nine locations across northern Ohio. “We hope that people will take the information they learn on the survey and share it with family and friends,” said John. “In that way, each year, in just four hours, we hope to touch the lives of up to 10,000 people. It’s a lot of work on our part but to be able to reach that many people in one weekend, it’s certainly worth the effort.”

One of the key messages that volunteers will be stressing is that gas appliances should be professionally inspected each year. “While people usually think about having their annual inspections done in the fall, summer is an ideal time to schedule them, when heating contractors aren’t as busy,” suggested Neil. You’ll probably save some money and you’ll certainly have more flexibility scheduling your appointment.

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“No matter how much insurance you have or no matter how safe you think you are going to be, anyone can have a disaster at any given time, which is unfortunate,” explained John.  “We’d rather put the effort into teaching or reminding people what to do, rather than responding after a disaster happens.”

Disaster Preparedness Day locations:

  • Belden Village Mall – Canton
  • Chief Supermarkets – Lima
  • Eastwood Mall – Niles
  • Great Northern Mall – North Olmsted
  • New Towne Mall – New Philadelphia
  • Target – University Heights
  • Walmart – Ashtabula
  • Walmart – Stow
  • Walmart – Wooster

Red Cross volunteers can still sign up on Volunteer Connection to assist at some locations. Residents are encouraged to come out and get a quality first aid kit, which is ideal for home or auto. Sometimes they go quickly so come early, if possible.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteer

Want a job? Join the Red Cross Corps

By Samantha Pudelski/Edited by Glenda Bogar, American Red Cross volunteers

January 9, 2019 – The help wanted sign is out.

The American Red Cross is looking for AmeriCorps workers in Northeast Ohio. It’s a unique opportunity for talented individuals to contribute to the Red Cross mission, while earning a small paycheck AND money to help with tuition or repay student loans.

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AmeriCorps workers prepare to help install smoke alarms in a home in Cleveland in 2018.

What is the Red Cross mission?  To prevent and alleviate human suffering. So being part of the Red Cross Corps will allow members to help people in the community, while at the same time developing their professional skills.

How does a Red Cross Corp member contribute to the Red Cross mission?

Members work alongside Red Cross staff on a variety of projects that support the mission of the Red Cross, to:

  • Deliver preparedness education to adults through the Home Fire Campaign, which seeks to reduce home fire-related deaths and injuries in the United States.
  • Deliver preparedness to youth through the Pillowcase Project, which educates on what disasters are and how to prepare for them.
  • Build local volunteer capacity to support preparedness education by training new lead volunteers.

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    AmeriCorps worker Rachel Steiner teaching children preparedness in 2017

John Gareis, who manages preparedness and community planning for the Red Cross in Northeast Ohio, said, “By helping support our Home Fire Campaign and Pillowcase Project, we have been able to teach more households and children about fire prevention and the importance of being prepared.”

Former Red Cross Corps member Shelby Begg said, “I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to provide impactful service to so many families throughout Northeastern Ohio, and that I got to work alongside so many wonderful people.”

Program Benefits

  • $14,000 taxable living stipend distributed bi-weekly payments of approximately $583 for 11 months of service.
  • Student loan deferment or forbearance.
  • Upon successful completion of term of service, eligible for a taxable education award in the amount of $6,095 which can be used to pay educational costs at eligible post-secondary educational institutions (including many technical schools and GI-Bill approved educational programs), as well as to repay qualified student loans.
  • Health insurance offered.
  • Childcare available if eligible.

Apply Today!

The Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross is currently looking for four individuals to join the Red Cross AmeriCorps team for 2019.  This is a full-time position with an 11-month term of service that provides opportunities for professional development while making a difference in local communities.

Position Locations

  • Greater Cleveland Chapter – 3747 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
  • Summit, Portage & Medina Counties Chapter – 501 West Market Street, Akron, Ohio 44303
  • Lake to River Chapter – 3530 Belmont Avenue, Youngstown, Ohio 44505

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If you have questions or would like more information, please contact John Gareis at 216-431-3219 or john.gareis@redcross.org.

 

Pillowcase Project Aimed at Preparing Kids for Emergencies

Inspired by Hurricane Katrina experience 13 years ago

By Sue Wilson, American Red Cross Board Member and Volunteer Partner

In late August, 2005, Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast causing catastrophic damage from Central Florida to Eastern Texas. Especially devastated was the city of New Orleans, when the storm made landfall on August 29, and the protection levees failed, flooding almost 80 percent of the city and the surrounding parishes. Out of the many stories of sadness and loss came stories of heroism and survival. It is from the latter that The Pillowcase Project was born.

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John Gareis, Regional Preparedness Manager, teaching the children of employees of the VA Northeast Ohio Healthcare System during a Pillowcase Project presentation.    Photo credit:  Mary Williams/American Red Cross

The Pillowcase Project was created by the American Red Cross in Southeast Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina when Kay Wilkins, Southeast Louisiana regional executive, had learned that Loyola University students carried their valuables in pillowcases when they were evacuated for Katrina. This inspired Kay and her team to work with an art therapist to create a program in which children living in makeshift communities across New Orleans decorated pillowcases as emergency supplies kits.

Students decorate their pillowcases.

Soon, The Pillowcase Project became a preparedness education program for elementary school students. In just a few years, it was adapted and implemented by several other Red Cross chapters with substantial success. Here in Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross taught nearly 4,500 students preparedness last year through the program.

The goal of the project is to help create a generation of children who understand the science of hazards, are empowered to take action preparing for emergencies, and are excited to help create a prepared community by sharing what they have learned with family and friends.

Students who participate in The Pillowcase Project will be able to:

• Identify the best ways to stay safe during emergencies that can occur in their communities.

• Identify the best ways to prevent and stay safe during a home fire.

• Use coping skills to help manage stress during emergencies and in everyday situations.

• Gain confidence in their abilities to be prepared for emergencies through hands-on activities.

• Use their knowledge to act as advocates for emergency preparedness in their homes and communities.

• Discuss the role science plays in emergency preparedness.

• Understand and communicate the work of the Red Cross in their communities.

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In addition to The Pillowcase Project, the Red Cross has teamed up with Disney to develop the Mickey and Friends Disaster Preparedness Activity Book, which has been distributed to more than 300,000 youth nationwide. The book teaches kids and families how to prepare for and respond to a wide range of disasters and emergencies through interactive games and activities. The book is available to download in English and Spanish.

Disney also sponsored the creation of Monster Guard – the first mobile app created by the Red Cross designed specifically for kids. The app complements The Pillowcase Project, and is a game where children role-play as various monster characters and engage in interactive training episodes for hazards such as home fires, floods and hurricanes.

To learn more about The Pillowcase Project and register your school to participate, visit our Resources for Schools page and scroll down for information.

Sound the Alarm on Home Fires

National, Local Effort to Prevent Fire Fatalities Gets  Underway This Week

By Doug Bardwell, American Red Cross volunteer

Every day, seven people are killed from home fires. It’s a staggering statistic, but true. If their homes had smoke alarms installed, who knows how many of those lives could have been saved? Watch this video.

Not content to accept this statistic, the American Red Cross is determined to reduce the number of injuries and deaths by at least 25 percent by the year 2020. From April 28 through May 13, smoke alarms will be installed in 100 at-risk communities across the United States.

In Northeast Ohio, the Red Cross is partnering with local fire departments and corporate partners to install smoke alarms in homes that have none or have older ones that need to be replaced. If a smoke alarm is more than 10-years old, it needs to be replaced. The portion of the detector that senses the smoke can lose its ability to function properly after 10 years.

Teams of volunteers, both Red Cross members and other members of the community will be visiting areas throughout the country, and will be installing these smoke alarms at no cost to the homeowners. Locally, smoke alarms will be installed in communities in Cleveland and Akron.  Visit soundthealarm.org/neo for the dates of our home fire safety and smoke alarm installation events.Sound_the_Alarm_2018-04-23 (002)

Volunteers – both trained and untrained – are still needed for a variety of tasks. If you can’t help on the installation dates, additional volunteers are needed before the event. People will be canvassing the neighborhoods and leaving flyers announcing the event, along with fire safety information. If you can walk, you’ve got the skills necessary.

 

On the day of the event, people with tool skills will do the actual installations, but other people are needed to provide safety information, to document the installations and to explain fire evacuation facts to the homeowners.

There’s something everyone can do, and you could be the next person who directly or indirectly saves someone’s life that is presently without smoke alarms. Visit us online to sign up for one of the volunteer opportunities.  Consider bringing family and friends to help as well.

Resolve to be Prepared

by: Melissa Papini, Disaster Program Manager

As we spend time reflecting on the closing of 2017, celebrating the season with our loved ones, being thankful for all the little things that bring us joy like safety and security, let’s also take time to think about (and say prayers for, if you’re so moved) our friends and family all over the world whose safety and security was threatened this year by natural disasters.

12292-409.jpgI recently heard an interview on the radio about a couple who moved from Brooklyn, NY to Ventura, CA this year. The interview was about the mandatory evacuations in their neighborhood related to the Thomas fire. They talked about how different it is to live in a community that has to be prepared at all times to flee their homes. Everyone they know has an emergency kit ready for not if, but when the wildfires get too close. That observation struck me. We live in a part of the country where very few people have natural disasters on their minds regularly. How many people do you know in Northeast Ohio that have an emergency kit ready at home?

Through my recent career move to “all things disaster,” my 10-year-old daughter has picked up on the idea of disaster preparedness. She has heard me talking about the Pillowcase Project and has created her own emergency kit that she’s packed in a pillowcase. She has a change of clothes, a flashlight, and a first aid kit ready to go if we ever need it. After reviewing the checklist in the Pillowcase Project booklet, I may suggest she add things like toiletries, markers and paper, a blanket, and a favorite toy.

For a detailed list of items that you can put together to create an entire household emergency kit please refer to our previous posts. There are also many Red Cross apps that can help you be prepared for and alerted about local disasters.

One other thing I’ve realized about preparedness through follow-up casework with our clients who’ve had home fires is how important it is to create an inventory of the contents of your home. If you are ever in a situation where you have a fire, your insurance company cannot begin to help you start replacing things until you’ve created a detailed inventory list for them. This is a daunting task for people who have millions of other things on their minds after a home fire. The easiest way to do this is take videos in each room of your home. Be sure to open drawers where you may have valuables too. Keep a copy of this video somewhere safe like an external hard drive in a fire proof lock box, the cloud, or you can even email it to yourself.

If you are like me and can’t wait to crack open your new planner for 2018 and start making lists of goals, be sure to add preparedness to your list of resolutions!